Our earth is composed of interconnected ecosystems of various sizes and properties that each play a vital role in the overall health of our global environment as well as human life. However, unsustainable human activities, like large carbon emissions and overexploitation of natural resources, are drastically changing the earth’s climate- in a negative way. The World Wide Fund (WWF) is an organization focusing on reversing these effects by encouraging practices that preserve biodiversity and implementing policies that reduce human impacts.
One of the two approaches of the WWF is conserving ecosystems/habitats that are “exceptional”, meaning that they are rich in biodiversity and support species that are important to their ecosystems as well as human society. An example of an ecosystem under the protection of the WWF is the Mediterranean, a large sea surrounded by 24 countries.
The Mediterranean is a marine ecosystem that supports several important natural processes that directly affect people’s lives. For example, its ecosystem services include water purification (indicated by kinetic energy), food provision (indicated by biomass), coastal protection , and recreation (measured using a Recreation Potential Indicator).
Food provision, the amount of available resources that can be used for human consumption, can be modeled with a food web consisting of over 100 groups (ranging from phytoplankton to large predators) and a study of the biomass trend over several years. The Mediterranean has a high capacity to provide resources like fish and plants for human consumption.
Due to the temperate climate of the Mediterranean, there is a great amount of ecosystem and species diversity in the area.
For example, there are over 30,000 plant species, 13,000 of which are unique to the ecosystem. It also supports many endangered organisms like the monk seal, Iberian lynx, and Great Bustard. Additionally, being a naturally beautiful and fertile land, the Mediterranean attracts a large population of long-term inhabitants as well as recreational tourists. However, the overall health and condition of the Mediterranean ecosystem have been declining in recent years and there needs to be urgent action to protect this area. The two major threats to the natural resources of this fragile ecosystem include rapid population growth and the subsequent increase economic development. These lead to exploitation of raw materials, deforestation, pollution of water in oceans/streams, and conversion of natural habitats for industrial purposes. As a result, the natural habitats housing important species (some of which can only be found in the Mediterranean) are being lost at concerning rates.
In summary, while the Mediterranean is one of the richest in biodiversity, it is also highly susceptible to collapse if no action is taken. Thankfully, agencies like the WWF are investing in efforts to protect this place. In order to save our environment from the negative trend it’s currently experiencing, there needs to be community awareness and collective action- not limited to the WWF’s methods.